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SPACE OF INTERVENTION IN THE WORKS OF FRANCIS ALŸS AND OF WOCHENKLAUSUR

SPACE OF INTERVENTION IN THE WORKS OF FRANCIS ALŸS AND OF WOCHENKLAUSUR

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An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Gimena Blanco. It is nominated by Lecturer David Brancaleone of Limerick Institute of Technology in the category of Languages & Linguisitcs
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Lecturer Nomination) Competition by Gimena Blanco. It is nominated by Lecturer David Brancaleone of Limerick Institute of Technology in the category of Languages & Linguisitcs

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
SPACE OF INTERVENTION IN THE WORKS OF FRANCIS ALŸS AND
OF WOCHENKLAUSURIn this essay I am going to explore the space of intervention in the works of Francis Alÿs and WochenKlausur. I will understand intervention as the space wherethe works enter a dialogue with the social space outside the art world, in an attempt tochange existing political or economic conditions or to make others aware of acondition they had no knowledge of.The concept of social space I will assume is that of Henri Lefebvre asoutlined in
The Production of Space
1
, where he defines space as a politicalconstruction, social space as a social product. This space is an instrument of controland domination but also an instrument for thought and action.
2
Space masks the socialrelationships it contains
3
, and tends to dissimulate or deny its contents, substitutingrepresentations for things, acts and situations.
4
 To assess the nature of the intervention in the works of Francis Alÿs andWochenKlausur, the questions I am going to ask are: What is the space where theworks operate?, What are the social relationships addressed in the works?, Are theserelationships masked or addressed? Is domination reproduced or challenged? Does thework open a space for action or does it ultimately end up as
spectacle
?The extent and quality of the relationship an intervention enters with socialspace can have different degrees. Not all interventions have as a goal the creation of aspace for action or of an alternative to the present order of things. Even if the artworld is itself a social space, I will not consider attempts to change this sphere to be asocial intervention. The reach of the intervention can be gauged differently. On theone hand I will consider the idea of situation as defined by the SituationistInternational
;
on the other, I will consider some asp
ects of Jaques Ranciere’s politics
of aesthetics.
 
1
Henri Lefebvre,
The Production Of Space
, Maldon, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
 
2
Ibid; p.26.
 
3
Ibid; p. 82,83.
 
4
Ibid; p.307.
 
 
The Situationist International defines a constructed situation as
‘A moment of 
life, concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of unitaryenvironment and the free play of eve
nts.’
5
A situation, collectively designed and
executed, has to be lived by its constructors, the role of the ‘public’ or expectators
diminished in favor of total participation.
6
This type of action will resistconmodification and has emancipation as its ultimately goal. For the Situationists, artand politics can not be separated.
Jaques Ranciere does not propose a strategy for art’s relationship with
society, but focuses inste
ad on the aesthetics of politics. ‘The politics of works of art plays itself out to a larger extent […] in the reconfiguration of worlds of experience based on which police consensus or political dissensus are defined’
7
. Interventionconsidered in the light of this concept becomes a more general process.
 
In his works, Mexican-based Belgium-born artist Francis Alÿs (1959-) oftendeals with social and political aspects of contemporary life. Alternative economies,borders, the relationship between poetics and politics, the failed promise of progressand the excessive effort relative to result in much of Latin American life are some of the issues he explores in his works.
9
 In
The Green Line: Sometimes doing something poetic can become political,and sometimes doing something political can become poetical
(2004), Alÿs walkedJerusalem dripping green paint from a can along the internationally recognized east
 border of Israel, known as ‘the green line’. This was the border set after the Arab
-Israeli war in 1949, but overrun by Israel in 1967. Following the line as still drawn onmost international and Palestinian maps and a few Israeli ones was not possible
5
 
Situationist International, ‘Preliminary Problems in Constructing a Situation’
 , InternationaleSituationniste#1,
1958
(accessed 1/12/10)
 
6
 
Ibid.
 
7
Jaques Ranciere,
The Politics of Aesthetics,
London; New York: Continuum, 2006,p.65
 
9
Mark Godfrey (ed.),
Francis Alÿs: A Story of Deception
, London: Tate Publishing,2010.
 
 
because of the present urban reality, checkpoints to avoid and new roads andbuildings to negotiate. Turning the map back into the complexity of the surface, thisaction draws attention both to the aspect of a map as a tool of control and spatialpolitics and to the history of struggle inscribed in the place. If maps, an instrument of power, reduce reality by deciding what spatial realities can remain visible whilevanishing others, by placing the line again in the territory Alÿs
 
makes visible what isnormally hidden
10
. In this sense, it is a reconfiguration of the space where Ranciere’s police consensus is defined. In the face of Israel’s efforts to erase t
he green line,making it visible again constitutes an intervention in the space of political visibility.According to Ranciere, a suitable political work of art disrupts the relationshipbetween the visible, the sayable and the thinkable
11
, and then there is a measure of 
success in Alÿs’s work.
After carrying out the action, Alÿs showed the resulting video piece to elevenactivists of various affiliations and recorded their responses to the work. Whendisplayed, the viewer can choose which recording to play. On the one hand, thecritique of the work is incorporated in it, opening a space for discussion; on the other,this makes the work even more ambivalent and open-ended. Facing the viewer withan option between conflicting views can be understood as a way of engaging his/heropinion and points to a potential for opening new social possibilities. Moreover, theinclusion of dissenting voices reveals the conflicting social relationships in Jerusalem.However, all these voices were brought back 
into
the gallery space and it is in thegallery space where responses are elicited. If there is a possibility of dialogue, it isonly pointed at in a somehow abstract manner, a mere possibility. After all, even if the viewer was really eager to enter dialogue, there is no one there to enter an actualdialogue with.
10
Ibid; p. 176.
 
11
Jacques Ranciere,
The Politics of Aesthetics,
p.63.
 

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